B2. Expressive Therapies – Oral Paper Session

Friday, 31 March 2017

‘Tekoon bede’: Cross cultural applications of expressive therapies with families from Iran

Last year in 2016 Foundation House facilitated a five-week pilot program was for young children and their parents with asylum seeker backgrounds from Iran currently residing in Melbourne, VIC. The children were all male age 5-6 years. The families were all living in the community, from mixed religious backgrounds and both parents of the children participated. The program was a group called ‘Tekoon bede’, named after a contemporary Iranian song, and employed music, movement/yoga and art-based activities with guest facilitators and a Farsi interpreter.

The aim of the program was to engage these families in order to strengthen child-parent and peer relationships, develop a sense of safety, mastery and confidence, and to support regulation of emotions. ‘Tekoon bede’ also sought to introduce playfulness and spark social and community connectedness. There was a commitment to the families informing the development of the program. The pre and post consultation with parents contributed to the development of the program and to exploring the impact of the group on the families.

The information gathered was qualitative in nature with first-hand accounts, self-reports, observation and photo documentation.
‘Tekoon bede’ was informed by principles of how movement, music, rhythm, and other expressive practices can generate healing, foster relationships as well as enhancing physical and emotional regulation and balance. While there is a growing literature around the value of relationally-focussed, brain-based and body-oriented practices, we realised that there is very little written about the application of these ideas, especially in a group context and when working across language and culture. As such, it seems timely to share about ‘Tekoon bede’, to generate new thinking and dialogue, and to contribute critically to the body of knowledge about expressive and experiential approaches to therapeutic work.

Chanelle Burns (Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture (Foundation House)), Toril Pursell (Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture (Foundation House))

Developing an On-Line Intervention Targeting Mental Health Stigma in Refugee Men

Refugees report elevated rates of psychological disorders including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Despite this, levels of help-seeking for mental health difficulties are low, especially amongst refugee men. This presentation reports on the development of an online intervention targeting stigma related to PTSD in refugee men from Arabic, Farsi and Tamil-speaking backgrounds. Qualitative interviews were conducted with community leaders, representatives, and service providers to understand the nature of mental health stigma in these communities. This information was combined with the broader evidence-base to design “Tell Your Story”, an online intervention comprising videos, psychoeducation and interactive activities. Techniques used in this intervention were based on best-practice principles for stigma reduction, and adapted for the three target cultural groups. This presentation will describe the components of the intervention, as well as the development and implementation phase of “Tell Your Story”.

Yulisha Byrow (University of New South Wales)

Presentation currently unavailable

Building a renewed sense of purpose and agency after trauma

Finding purpose, human or institutional, after a traumatic experience within a conflicted context is extremely challenging. Yet this is a must in times of growing global unrest. This paper explores the human consciousness of those seeking new meanings in their participation after experiencing trauma. According to a recent study from 162 countries only 11 are not involved in conflict. By using dynamic scenarios on the mobility of violence, this paper will provide a panoramic perspective of the problem area and propose new methods to approach healing with a renewed sense of purpose. In particular, the paper provides a phenomenological exploration of both concepts trauma and creativity in rural communities.

Institutions are also broken and loosing their most valuable resource, the human capital and agency of their people. I describe human agency as the capability for human beings to make choices with freedom. The flourishing of human agency is obstructed when agency enters into survival mode (Rodriguez Carreon, 2015). As Ul Haq cleary stated on the first Human Security Report “when people travel, they bring much dynamisms and creativity with them. But when only their poverty travels, they bring nothing but human misery” (1995, 39), so how do survivors re-encounter again with the dynamism and creativity overshadowed by traumatic memories?

This paper is the continuation of my former research in human agency and empowerment. This paper aims to explore the existing methods of healing used in communities. What is the existing dynamic between the concepts of both trauma and creativity? The main argument is that trauma is the antithesis of creativity, and the capacity for imagination to renew the sense of purpose is crucial for the people in mobility. This paper will explore the literature of contemplative studies and ask the question: how forgotten contemplative practices can regenerate wellbeing after trauma -used in other cultures to redefine their sense of agency?

Vivianna Rodriguez Carreon (University of Sydney)

Presenation currently unavailable

Treehouse Theatre Projects: The Magic of Performance in Youth Trauma Recovery

Using therapeutic drama and performance, Treehouse Theatre projects are trauma recovery and resilience building programs targeting refugee students from 2 Western Sydney high schools. Students are recent Humanitarian entrants from Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Liberia, Congo, Sudan and South Sudan. Almost all are in the early stages of learning English. Therapeutic drama projects include the “Tree of Life Project”, based on the model developed by Ncube (2006) and the “Suitcase Project” based on the model developed by Clacherty (2006).

Both programs are designed to meet the trauma recovery goals outlined by Herman (1997) regarding the restoration of safety, attachment, purpose and dignity. The therapeutic drama process is developed from Narrative Therapy models of therapeutic practice and is supported by Outsider Witness practices described by Carey and Russell (2003). Therapeutic Research in Narrative Exposure Therapy (Schauer et al, 2005) also provides therapeutic underpinning of Treehouse projects with the notion that repeated exposure to traumatic events, though controlled story telling, and in the case of Treehouse programs, repeated rehearsal and performance, leads to reduced symptoms of anxiety, fear and feelings of social exclusion.

Performance in professional theatres also helps to educate high school student audiences about refugee issues so that the schools and the Australian community can be more accepting and welcoming of refugees.

Formal evaluation of Treehouse programs is still in the preliminary stages. However, participant responses to counsellor developed cast surveys at the completion of every project are overwhelmingly positive. Qualitative responses collected from audiences and teachers are similarly positive. This presentation will present all current interview and survey data.

Catherine Maguire-Donvito (NSW Department of Education)